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The latest Keuchel free-agent rumors

MLB.com

After a seven-season tenure with the Astros that included a trio of 200-inning seasons, an American League Cy Young Award in 2015 and an overall 3.66 ERA, Dallas Keuchel is now a free agent.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the left-hander.

After a seven-season tenure with the Astros that included a trio of 200-inning seasons, an American League Cy Young Award in 2015 and an overall 3.66 ERA, Dallas Keuchel is now a free agent.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the left-hander.

Which teams could benefit most from Keuchel's skill set?
Jan. 20: As the top starting pitcher left in free agency, Dallas Keuchel would make just about any team better. But some clubs look like they would be better fits than others for the veteran southpaw, based on his repertoire and approach.

In a look at which remaining free agents possess the best skills in various categories (i.e., hardest hitter, most effective fastball), MLB.com's Andrew Simon highlights Keuchel as the best ground-ball artist.

"For a team that plays in a homer-friendly ballpark, Keuchel would have obvious appeal," Simon writes. "The lefty threw his sinker more than 40 percent of the time last season, and generated a grounder on roughly 55 percent of balls put in play against him. While that represented a drop from his 68 percent mark in 2017, it still ranked among the best in MLB, and Keuchel has finished well above 50 percent in every season of his career."

Keuchel's ability to suppress homers and get grounders could suggest teams like the Reds, Phillies and Brewers -- all of whom have at least been linked to him in some fashion this offseason -- could benefit by bringing his skill set to their homer-happy ball parks.

Taking that one step further to factor in Keuchel's ability to pitch to the edges of the strike zone, MLB.com's David Adler ran down the catchers who might mesh best with Keuchel. In that regard, the Reds (with Tucker Barnhart) don't appear to be as good of a fit, but the Phillies (Jorge Alfaro) and Brewers (recently signed Yasmani Grandal) make a lot of sense.

Four possible fits for Keuchel
Jan. 16: Dallas Keuchel entered the offseason as one of the most accomplished starting pitchers on the free-agent market. With other big names like Patrick Corbin (Nationals), Nathan Eovaldi (Red Sox) and Yusei Kikuchi (Mariners) having signed, Keuchel is unquestionably the top starter left -- and has been for some time.

Although there hasn't been a shortage of rumors surrounding the 31-year-old, it's possible his decision is being held up to some extent by seeing what happens with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Their decisions could impact which clubs make a push for Keuchel -- and have the money left for a long-term contract.

In a rundown of seven of the top remaining free agents -- not counting Harper and Machado -- MLB.com's Richard Justice ranks Keuchel No. 3 and writes: "He's the best available starter on the market, and it's probably not close. His 23.3 percent soft-contact rate is tops among all Major League starters over the last five seasons. In that time, his 18.2 fWAR is ranked 16th. He's coming off his second 200-inning season in the last four years. His resume includes an AL Cy Young Award in 2015 and a 3.31 ERA in 10 postseason appearances."

As for where Keuchel might land, Justice lists the Reds, Phillies, Braves and, yep, a return to the Astros as possibilities. All of those have been linked to the lefty at various points this offseason and make sense as fits, given their needs for a starter and, ideally, an arm capable of pitching in the middle of the rotation.

Phillies might go after Harper or Machado -- and then some
Jan. 15: The Phillies have long been seen as a big spender this offseason, with most of that speculation linked to the two premier free agents on the market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. But if Philadelphia -- whose owner John Middleton famously said the organization might be "a little stupid" in how it spends its money -- lands one of those two, what else could they do?

More big signings could be in the offing. In fact, Phillies execs "have visions of signing Harper, [lefty starter Dallas] Keuchel and [closer Craig] Kimbrel," according to USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale, who last week reported other general managers saw that as a possibility.

Tweet from @BNightengale: The #Phillies, according to team executives, have visions of signing Harper,Keuchel and Kimbrel.

Tweet from @BNightengale: There are several GMs who believe that even if the #Phillies sign Harper or Machado, they will be aggressive in the market for Keuchel and Kimbrel.

Meanwhile, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman also thinks the Phillies are in position to land one of Harper or Machado and then go after "other top free agents" like Keuchel, Kimbrel and/or outfielder A.J. Pollock.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Philly is in excellent position to sign one or the other of the free agent mega stars ��� Harper or Machado. Signing both though is said to remain pretty unlikely. But after they secure 1, Phils may take a closer look at other top free agents (ie Keuchel, Kimbrel, Pollock)

The Phillies surprised many early in the 2018 season by competing for the top spot in the National League East. But they faded rapidly toward the end of the season, falling to third place with a record of 80-82. With promising young prospects soon to reach the big leagues, the club is apparently looking to bolster the club with superstar power and, per Nightengale, potentially a former American League Cy Young Award winner to slot in behind right-hander Aaron Nola, and/or one of the premier closers in the game.

If it came down to it, would the Reds choose Keuchel or Pollock?
Jan. 13: The Reds have made it clear this offseason that upgrading their starting rotation is a priority, trading for both Tanner Roark and Alex Wood. They also have a vacancy in center field after non-tendering Billy Hamilton. So if it came down to it, would Cincinnati pursue free-agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel or free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock?

In his latest Inbox, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon suggests Keuchel would be the choice given that he could be a "bigger difference maker in an area of weakness."

"The Reds could get by with Yasiel Puig, Scott Schebler or Nick Senzel in center field if they had to this season and have some good prospects not too far away from being ready," Sheldon notes.

Keuchel, 31, is a former American League Cy Young Award winner, though he has had up-and-down seasons since 2015, along with declining fastball velocity. Still, he is among the best in the game at producing soft contact and ground balls, skills that would play very well at the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.

Pollock, also 31, presents upside given the flashes of brilliance he's shown at the plate and in center field. But his injury history is long, and he's only played in 237 games since 2016. Pollock won a Gold Glove Award in his last healthy season (157 games in 2015), and last season, he was slashing .293/.349/.620 with 11 home runs and nine steals before fracturing his left thumb on a dive in center field on May 14.

Will Reds go to the top of the market to fill rotation void?
Jan. 11: Although they've already added Tanner Roark and Alex Wood in trades this offseason, the Reds are still in the hunt for another starting pitcher, according to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. As for potential targets, new pitching coach Derek Johnson has a specific type of hurler in mind.

"It makes sense to suppress contact as much as possible," Johnson said. "If you can find guys that have high whiff [rates] on one or two pitches, it makes a lot of sense. I think extreme ground-ball [pitchers] make a lot of sense and extreme popup makes a lot of sense too in our park. That's a tall order. If you can find pitchers with one of those or two of those, I think it would fit."

Dallas Keuchel's strikeout rate tumbled to 17.5 percent in 2018, but he remained among the leaders in ground-ball rate (53.7 percent), making him a good fit for Cincinnati's hitter-friendly home park.

The problem, as Sheldon points out, is that Keuchel is believed to be seeking a five-year deal, which would take him through his age-35 season. The Reds may be unwilling to go there.

But if the club is serious about becoming a contender in the National League Central within the next year or two, Cincinnati could opt for the bold play by signing Keuchel, especially if the Yankees continue to insist on multiple top pitching prospects in exchange for Sonny Gray -- another Reds target.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Reds still among teams with interest in Sonny Gray. He has close connection with Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson. Yankees believed interested in multiple pitching prospects -- good ones in the category of Santillan, Gutierrez and Mella. upper level guys with a chance.

Is this why Keuchel hasn't signed yet?
Jan. 9: There could be a reason why Dallas Keuchel hasn't signed yet, despite entering this offseason as one of the most accomplished free-agent pitchers and now standing as the clear No. 1 with names like Patrick Corbin, Nathan Eovaldi, J.A. Happ, Charlie Morton and Yusei Kikuchi off the board.

"Dallas Keuchel is waiting to see who gets [Bryce] Harper and [Manny] Machado," MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal said on Hot Stove, "because those teams might want him."

In other words, if clubs like the Phillies, White Sox and Nationals, all of which are pushing for Harper or Machado, miss out on the two top stars of this free-agent market, they then could turn their attention -- and their leftover money -- to Keuchel.

Video: Best free agents available after Harper, Machado

As the clear top starting pitcher available, Keuchel is in a strong position to negotiate for a long-term contract. He is believed to be seeking a five- or six-year deal, but whether the 31-year-old can get that length -- rather than settling for, say, three years -- very much could be impacted by how many teams are in the mix for his services. And that certainly could be affected by which clubs miss out on Harper and Machado.

Breaking down market for Keuchel
Jan. 7: While many of the top free-agent starters have already signed -- with some, such as Patrick Corbin, doing so a month ago -- Dallas Keuchel remains without a team. Keuchel's lofty asking price is believed to be the reason he's still unsigned, as there are indeed multiple teams with interest in the left-hander, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Per Morosi, the Phillies and the Reds are the top two teams in the mix for Keuchel at the moment. The Brewers are also eyeing the southpaw, but Morosi gets the sense that Milwaukee doesn't want to spend what Keuchel will ultimately cost.

With the proven ability to rack up grounders, Keuchel would be a great fit for the Reds and the Phillies, as both clubs have hitter-friendly home parks that can be challenging for fly-ball-heavy pitchers.

The Reds have already added Tanner Roark and Alex Wood to their rotation this offseason, but both pitchers can become free agents after the 2019 campaign. As a result, the club could look to add a starter on a multiyear deal.

Meanwhile, Morosi thinks that the Phillies haven't gone after Keuchel more aggressively yet because they are waiting to see how their pursuits of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado turn out.

Video: Phillies, Reds maintain interest in Keuchel

Keuchel could be this year's Arrieta for Phillies
Jan. 4: When the market didn't play out the way Jake Arrieta and agent Scott Boras were hoping it would last offseason, the right-hander ultimately signed with the Phillies in March for $75 million. He only got three years, though, which made it a shorter-term deal than than he and Boras had been seeking.

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand predicts the free-agent odyssey of Dallas Keuchel -- another Boras client who, like Arrieta, won a Cy Young Award in 2015 but has regressed some in recent years -- will reach a similar conclusion.

The Phillies seem unwilling to meet Keuchel's demand for a five-year contract, but they could swoop in if he proves amenable to taking a four-year deal later in the offseason, according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.

"In short, I see the Phillies signing Keuchel, but only if his price drops significantly in the short term or if there is another Jake Arrieta situation (i.e. he lingers on the market into Spring Training)," Zolecki writes. "But like I wrote Thursday following the David Robertson  deal, the Phillies at the moment have turned their focus to Machado and Harper. They want to see what happens with them first before they make a decision on something big. They will need every penny they can get to sign one of them."

Why Keuchel is in prime position
Jan. 2: Another pitcher is off the market, as Yusei Kikuchi -- one of Japan's top pitchers the past several seasons -- has agreed to a deal with the Mariners, according to multiple reports. Arguably no position has been more active in free agency than starting pitchers, as just about all of the big names have found homes, from Patrick Corbin (Nationals) and Nathan Eovaldi (Red Sox) to J.A. Happ (Yankees) and Charlie Morton (Rays).

One top arm, however, remains very much available: Dallas Keuchel. Now that fellow lefty Kikuchi is off the board, what does that mean for Keuchel?

"Keuchel could find himself at a significant advantage," ESPN's Jeff Passan writes in an all-encompassing look at the free-agent and trade markets entering the new year. "Most of the desirable merchandise is long gone, with only one expensive ware alongside the tchotchkes left on the shelves."

For one thing, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner is unquestionably the best starter left on the open market. Gio Gonzalez, Derek Holland, Clay Buchholz and Wade Miley are among the next-best options for teams seeking rotation help. While they are coming off solid 2018 campaigns, none of that quartet can match Keuchel's age, resume and durability. The southpaw, who turned 31 on New Year's Day, has pitched 950 1/3 innings over the past five seasons and owns a 3.28 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP over that span.

For another, Keuchel did not lose a potential suitor when the Mariners reached their agreement with Kikuchi, as Seattle has not been linked to the former Astros pitcher. That, along with Keuchel's standing as the top free-agent starter, puts him in good position to land a long-term, big-money contract. Put simply, if a team that still has a need for a starter who can pitch at or near the front of a rotation, the list of candidates pretty much starts and ends with Keuchel.

While it's been reported that Keuchel is seeking a five- or six-year pact, some teams have indicated a hesitation to go to that length. But all of the above factors may mean one club will be willing to make at least a five-year commitment, especially after Kikuchi -- who is younger than Keuchel at 27 but also an unproven commodity in MLB -- scored a guarantee of four years and $56 million, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

Tweet from @Feinsand: Source confirms Yusei Kikuchi gets a $14M AAV over 4 guaranteed years with Seattle. He can opt out after 3 years at $43M, or the Mariners can extend for 4 more years at $66M. If Seattle doesn���t extend, Kikuchi has 2022 option for $13M. @JonHeyman had contract details first.

The Reds, Phillies, Angels, Brewers, Rangers and possibly the Astros are among the teams that have been linked to and/or could be good fits for Keuchel. If there is a risk for him, it's that those clubs could look to sign starters who come with less of a track record but intriguing upside at a lower financial commitment. Or Keuchel's suitors could pivot and make a push to make a swap for, say, right-handers like Corey Kluber (Indians), Zack Greinke (D-backs) and Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays) or lefty Madison Bumgarner (Giants), all of whom have been rumored as trade chips.

Dallas Keuchel